On the 10th anniversary of Major League Baseball returning to the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals were awarded the 2018 All Star Game.
New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement before the season opener at Nationals Park (though some fans broke the news first). The news marks a symbolic milestone for the franchise and the city, where the Montreal Expos relocated to after Washington offered a sweetheart stadium deal to MLB that included the promise of revitalizing a stretch Anacostia Waterfront.
Washington’s stadium deal generated much debate, to the point that then-D.C. Council member Linda Cropp briefly became a national figure for standing up to MLB, arguing city funds would better be spent on public schools than the new sports facility. During a wild few weeks in 2004, the council first shot down the agreement before reversing course (presumably when pro-baseball lobbyists intervened).
The dustup foreshadowed some other bumps the team maneuvered through on and off the field in its first few years. By the time new stadium opened one block from the Navy Yard Metro station in 2008, the Great Recession took effect and brought planned neighborhood development to a halt.
Likewise, it took years for the Nats to find success on the field. Now, they are owners of the most regular seasons wins over the past three years and are an odds-on favorite to reach the World Series. As good timing would have it, restaurants, condominiums and other retail has made the neighborhood a destination.
The franchise’s feel-good story went a long way toward selling MLB on bringing back the Midsummer Classic to a city that last hosted it in 1969, when Ted Williams managed the then-Washington Senators and the team played at RFK Stadium (which remarkably is still home to Major League Soccer’s D.C. United for a few more years). Giants legend Willie McCovey was MVP of the game and Phillies Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton got the win.
Two years later, the Senators relocated to Texas and became the Rangers—11 years after D.C. lost its first team to Minnesota. From 1971 to 2005, the national pastime was absent in the capital city, with many area baseball fans turning toward the Baltimore Orioles.
In 2018, D.C. will be center of the baseball world.